Maybe I was kidding myself. I’ve always enjoyed science fiction on the page and the screen, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I never identified myself as a geek or anything like that.
But then I started watching Start Trek III on TV and I could match every name in the opening credits to the corresponding character.
So, since I have come to grips with this part of myself, I figured I would take the time to write, briefly on the value of science fiction as a genre. And first I need to clarify that there is a subgenre of Science Fiction that is mere escapist fantasy–it is set in a world that could not possibly have come from ours and is merely a collection of special effects (sometimes of the imagination). Good science fiction, however, is valuable because it stems from our world and is a commentary on our reality–other people have pointed this out before me, I should emphasize.
When this really becomes noticeable and interesting is when the sci-fi is old. In this instance you have a really fascinating intersection of worlds when the ideals and fears of the past project onto the future. The reader or viewer then gets to exist in a sort of alternate reality that differs from the expectations of the past and would almost certainly not lead to the projected future. It’s a bit of a mind trip.
The short stories of Philip K. Dick are a good example of this. They are permeated by the fears and paranoia of the cold war and project a bleak future in general. Reading them after the cold war clarifies the attitude of that time, but also gives us a little more hope for the future, having conquered (in a sense) those fears and that darkness. The movie 2010 is another great example of this.
So, while I’m watching Star Trek III I can laugh at the depictions of technology that are surpassed by present day smartphones, but I can also enjoy the depictions and speculation of human nature and action that still resonate with the current culture. It’s a bit of a confirmation that human beings will always be the same.